UNICEF supports healthier food environment campaign

By Zhang Liying
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, February 28, 2023
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The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is supporting the "Fix My Food" campaign led by young people to raise awareness of the need to create healthier food environments in China, Cambodia, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Mongolia, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vietnam.

Young people, together with celebrities and influencers from these eight countries, participated in a two-day co-creation "Fix My Food" workshop on Monday in Bangkok, Thailand. They brainstormed ideas and identified potential partners to help roll out the campaign in their respective countries.

Young people, celebrities and influencers join Debora Comini (back row, center), regional director for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, at the launch of the "Fix My Food" campaign in Bangkok, Feb. 27, 2023. [Photo by Yang Jingjie/UNICEF]

With young people leading the campaign and support from celebrities and influencers, UNICEF hopes to create awareness of the impact of changing food environments in the lives of girls and boys and the urgent need for governments, the private sector, and civil society to take collective action to build a healthier food environment in East Asia and the Pacific, said a press release by the organization.

Debora Comini, regional director for UNICEF East Asia and Pacific, said: "Today, children and young people are surrounded by junk-food marketing wherever they go: online, on their way to school, college or university, on television, and even while standing in the checkout-line of the grocery store. The result is that too many children in East Asia and the Pacific have poor, unhealthy diets that are having a devastating impact on their health and well-being. It is about time that we change this."

Ros Rotanak, Cambodia's first female celebrity chef, and Luong Thuy Linh, winner of the 2019 Vietnam Miss World title, were also part of the co-creation workshop and launch event.

Speaking at the event, 24-year-old postgraduate student Chen Feipeng, who was recommended by the All-China Youth Federation to attend the workshop, said, "I am excited to be a part of the campaign designed and led by young people, which will send ripples across this region to raise awareness for healthier food environment."

Postgraduate student Chen Feipeng takes part in a cooking challenge during the "Fix My Food" campaign in Bangkok, Feb. 27, 2023. [Photo by Yang Jingjie/UNICEF]

"Upon coming home, I hope to work with my peers and youth groups in China, including through Hope Kitchen (a government nutrition program)," she said. "This will contribute to improved access to healthy food options that are affordable, available, packaged and marketed well, so that everyone wants to buy them."

Meng Qianshan, a nutrition educator from Chengdu, also took part in the event. "Children's diets determine their physical and mental health; every child has a right to good health," she said. "All sectors of the society need to collectively build a child-friendly food environment, and promote a sustainable food system."

Meng Qianshan, a nutrition educator from Chengdu, joins a cooking challenge during the "Fix My Food" campaign in Bangkok, Feb. 27, 2023. [Photo by Yang Jingjie/UNICEF]

According to UNICEF, the food systems in East Asia and the Pacific, known for diverse and vibrant food culture, are changing rapidly. Traditional healthy fresh food diets are being replaced by an increasing consumption of highly processed junk-food and drinks filled with sugar, salt and unhealthy fats.

Children across the region are growing up in food environments that promote the sale and consumption of these "junk" foods and drinks, rather than healthier alternatives. As a result, more than one in three adolescents are drinking at least one sugary drink a day; more than half consume fast-food once or more a week; and less than half are eating enough fruit and vegetables every day.

UNICEF has been working closely with governments and partners to introduce policies and legislation to curb the increase in marketing of unhealthy food and drink. This includes bans on advertising and the sale of unhealthy foods in and around schools, clear front-of-pack nutrition labelling, and taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages, according to the press release.

As part of UNICEF's work to mobilize and empower young people to take action, the "Fix My Food" initiative will be implemented in the eight participating countries and supported by UNICEF country offices and partners. 

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